Replica of 1840 Voigtlä nder, World’s First Metal Camera

The first Daguerreotype cameras introduced in 1839 were fitted with simple slow-speed lenses, and this made exposure times long, from two to ten minutes or more, even in bright sunlight. The long exposure times made taking portraits difficult and usually required the subject to be seated and the head held steady with neck braces.
In 1840 Joseph Petzval, a Professor of Mathematics at Vienna University, designed a portrait lens that was twenty times faster than the Chevalier lenses fitted to the first Daguerreotype cameras. The Petzval lens gave superb sharpness at the center of the image and was less sharp towards the edges. The lens was ideal for portraits and reduced exposure times to a minute or less.
The brass Voigtländer Daguerreotype "Cannon" camera was one of the first cameras to use the Petzval portrait lens. This camera was originally introduced in 1841 and took 80mm circular images on Daguerreotype plates. The model shown here is one of a small number of replicas with serial number 84 made in 1978 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Voigtländer Company.
From its invention in 1839, the camera has evolved to fit many needs, from aerial to underwater photography and everything in between. Cameras allow both amateur and professional photographers to capture the world around us. The Smithsonian’s historic camera collection includes rare and unique examples of equipment, and popular models, related to the history of the science, technology, and art of photography.
Currently not on view
Object Name
camera, replica
Voightlander & Sohn
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
glass (overall material)
overall: 37 cm x 31 cm x 15 cm; 14 9/16 in x 12 3/16 in x 5 7/8 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Photographic History
Artifact Walls exhibit
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of A.B. Voigtländer

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